Hatters come so close to snatching a dramatic point at the Baggies
Championship: West Bromwich Albion 3 Luton Town 2
It was a case of so near yet so far for the Hatters as they went home empty-handed from their trip to title favourites West Bromwich Albion this afternoon in an absorbing encounter at the Hawthorns.
Having fallen 3-0 behind early in the second half, few inside the ground gave the visitors a chance, expecting the Baggies to rack up a few more.
However, that never materialised, Luton mounting a battling fightback thanks to goals from Harry Cornick and Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu but despite 16 minutes of extra time played due to a nasty head injury to Jordan Clark, they couldn't quite find a third way through, suffering a first league defeat of the season.
Town boss Nathan Jones went with an unchanged side from the opening Championship clash against Peterborough United, Mpanzu making his 300th appearance for the club, as the visitors looked to build on their 3-0 success against the promotion favourites.
It was an entirely different proposition in front of what was a boisterous Hawthorns crowd though, many getting to see their team in front of a full house for the first time since March 2020.
A deafening introduction for the players meant it was hardly surprising the hosts started with a real spring in their step, looking to make the most of the super-charged atmosphere as they target instant promotion back to the top flight.
Callum Robinson had one ambitious attempt from 25 yards not miss by much, as you felt it was imperative the visitors got through the opening exchanges with their clean sheet in tact to given themselves any realistic chance of getting something from the contest.
Those hopes went up in smoke in just five minutes though as Darnell Furlong's long throw was hurled into the box with a real curve on it and captain Kal Naismith could only manage to back-pedal and glance his header into the bottom corner.
It mirrored Town's last trip to the famous old stadium two years ago, Donervon Daniels putting through his own net on that occasion, as the Baggies looked for a second, Grady Diangana scuffing tamely off target.
Luton's only real opening saw Fred Onyedinma on a break forward, but his attempt to find team-mate Harry Cornick was weak and easily cut out by the back-tracking home back-line.
A simple but incredibly effective corner routine saw the ball teed up for Karlan Grant, whose shot was blocked by a posse of Luton defenders, while another attempt from further out midway through the half was parried by Sluga, Furlong lofting his rebound well over the top.
The full back's long throws continued to cause problems all half, as another one propelled into the box was met by defender Matt Clarke, Sluga acrobatically turning over the bar.
Albion then upped the pressure considerably, as a raking ball into the area was met by Robinson, whose header flicked off Naismith and went wide, despite a large section of home fans thinking it was 2-0.
Sluga prevented that being the case from the set-piece showing excellent reactions to flip over Clarke's audacious flick, but he was beaten on 36 minutes, as the Baggies demonstrated their set-piece prowess once more.
Another pinpoint corner from Mowatt was curled in right under the bar, as Sluga failed to get enough distance on his punch, claiming he was fouled, Amari'i Bell's decision to vacate his post and attempt to head clear leaving just enough space for Robinson to nod into the net.
With seconds to go, Luton were almost staring down the barrel at a three goal deficit as yet another wickedly curling corner by Mowatt saw Sluga's punch more up then out, Furlong nodding against the top of the woodwork.
Town boss Jones took off Onyedinma at the break, with Henri Lansbury on in his place, but the second half then saw Clark suffer a nasty injury after being clattered by Johnstone when looking to beat the keeper to a ball into the area.
There was no blame attached to the Baggies stopper, and after a prolonged spell of treatment on the pitch, the midfielder was eventually stretchered off, Admiral Muskwe on in his place.
Luton's attempts at damage limitations were broken on 66 minutes when James Bree gave the ball away in a dangerous area and the hosts simply transferred play forward where Grant held off Naismith and easily beat Sluga to make it 3-0.
However, Luton were gifted a lifeline as after Alan Campbell's cross into the box was cleared, he managed to block Conor Townsend's attempted clearance, the ball flying into the path of Cornick who confidently side-footed into the net to pull one back.
Baggies boss Valerien Ismael replaced both goalscorers, bringing on Matt Phillips and Kenneth Zohore, the former seeing his exquisite 20-yard free kick crash against the post and bounce out.
Luton still carried a threat, winning two corners that required clearing by the home side, as they upped the pressure during the final stages, finally giving their away fans some concerted belief they could get something from the contest.
They won a number of corners, before bringing on Cameron Jerome for Adebayo due to Clark's change being a concussion substitute.
After 16 minutes of extra time were signalled, the Hatters should have made it 3-2 in the first of them, Bree's cross perfect for Muskwe, but the attacker just 10 yards out, scuffed his shot, Johnstone sticking out a leg to save.
Still Town kept attacking, Johnstone out of his area to head away, with Cornick's follow-up volley turning into pass for Bell who blazed wastefully off target.
Mpanzu almost marked his milestone with a goal, his snapshot straight at Johnstone, but he then did so with eight minutes of extra time gone, as the Baggies once again made a right hash of clearing their lines.
Kyle Bartley tried to head the ball back for Johnstone, getting it all wrong, as Cornick's swivel and shot was blocked by the covering Dara O'Shea, only for Mpanzu to roll the loose ball over the line from a few yards out.
Although there was still time for the Hatters in what was becoming a grandstand finale, despite the best efforts of Jerome, they couldn't quite create the final chance they required to snatch what had at one stage looked like an unthinkable point.
Baggies: Sam Johnstone, Darnell Furlong, Conor Townsend, Dara O'Shea, Kyle Bartley, Callum Robinson (Kenneth Zohore 71), Jake Livermore ©, Grady Diangana, Matt Clarke (Semi Ajayi 84), Karlan Grant (Matt Phillips 71), Alex Mowatt.
Subs not used: David Button, Adam Reach, Cedric Kipre, Rayhaan Tulloch.
Hatters: Simon Sluga, James Bree, Amari'i Bell, Gabe Osho, Kal Naismith, Allan Campbell (Peter Kioso 74), Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Jordan Clark (Admiral Muskwe 60), Fred Onyedinma (Henri Lansbury 46), Harry Cornick, Elijah Adebayo (Cameron Jerome 89).
Subs not used: James Shea, Carlos Mendes Gomes, Dion Pereira.
Bookings: Campbell 15, Mowatt 29, Osho 74, Zohore 90.
Referee: Tim Robinson.
Attendance: 23,283 (Luton 1,433).